Doug Wall

Doug Wall

Posted on 01/24/2016


Photo taken on February 20, 1988


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The Great Storm of 1987

The Great Storm of 1987
The last two photos I added to Ipernity were of the exceptional snow storm we suffered in January 1987. But the weather had more for us in store that year.


On the evening of 15 October1987, radio and TV forecasts mentioned strong winds but indicated heavy rain would be the main feature, rather than strong wind. I distinctly remembering tapping the barometer just before retiring to bed [I guess it would have been about 10.30pm or a bit later] and noticing that the arm of the barometer dropped almost vertically down and, I thought, shame it’s fallen off. I will have to buy a new barometer. I simply didn’t register the dramatic drop in pressure. After all, the weather wasn’t that bad.


The lunchtime weather reports had dismissed talk of a severe weather storm, with forecaster Michael Fish assuring viewers that they were not true. He said: "earlier on today apparently a woman rang the BBC and said she'd heard there was a hurricane on the way. "Well if you are watching don't worry, there isn't", he replied. So when people went to bed that evening they had no idea as to what was to come. Not until the early hours of the following morning did the Met Office issue a warning to the Ministry of Defence that the anticipated consequences of the storm were such that civil authorities might need to call on assistance from the military. Very soon In south-east England, where the greatest damage occurred, gusts of 70 knots or more were recorded continually for three or four consecutive hours. Damage patterns in south-east England suggested that whirlwinds accompanied the storm.


I don’t know what time I was woken by the noise outside. About three in the morning probably. Just about anything that wasn’t bolted down was flying past my bedroom window, roof tiles too.


From my house you had a view across the river Medway to the hills beyond. It was mainly farmland apart from an ancient building that was still occupied. The overhead power lines had been snapped and were waving around in the wind around the property. But the power was still on and sparks were flying everywhere [it was still dark]. Quite fascinating and frightening at the same time. I would have been s**t scared if I had been living there.....


With winds gusting at up to 100mph in some places, there was massive devastation across the country and 22 people were killed. About 15 million trees were blown down. Many fell on to roads and railways, causing major transport delays. Others took down electricity and telephone lines, leaving thousands of homes without power for more than 24 hours, including mine. Buildings were damaged by winds or falling trees. Numerous small boats were wrecked or blown away, with one ship at Dover being blown over and a Channel ferry, the MV Hengist, was driven ashore near Folkestone and a number of ships capsized.



70 per cent of the estimated 15 million trees blown over were on private gardens and estates. A huge number of historic trees were blown down in Kew Gardens, Wakehurst Place and Hyde Park among many other places. Fallen trees and other wreckage blocked roads and railways across the country. All the footpaths through the ancient woods where I lived at the time were blocked by fallen trees. It was heartbreaking to see ancient oaks all lying on their sides. They were still in full leaf and were simply torn from the ground. Others that held on more firmly were just snapped in two.



London itself was blacked out for six hours and hundreds of thousands of people were left without power. My residence relied on overhead power cables that were blown down. I had to sit in the car and turn on the car radio to get news. Sitting there being buffeted by the wind and pelted by debris was an interesting experience. It took many days to get power back. After that I bought a petrol generator.



In France both Brittany and Normandy were affected by the storm and 1.79 million homes were left without electricity supply and water.

The Met Office were heavily criticised for failing to predict the storm and a public inquiry was set up shortly after it had passed. In the wake of the storm the National Severe Weather Warning Service was created which informs the public about severe weather which may put lives at risk.



The powerful winds experienced in the south of England during this storm are deemed a once in 200 year event - meaning they were so unusually strong you could only expect this to happen every two centuries. This storm was compared with one in 1703, also known as a 'great storm'.


My photo was taken some weeks after the storm when the footpaths had been cleared enabling access to the woods once again.

Christina Sonnenschein, Frank Roolooth, Annemarie, Tractacus and 6 other people have particularly liked this photo


19 comments - The latest ones
Meadowmom
Meadowmom
A good reminder that climate change is coming, but not quite this fast. There have been storms like this before.
18 months ago.
Doug Wall has replied to Meadowmom
Every 200 years.....so we were told....
18 months ago.
Keith Burton
Keith Burton
I remember this night well Doug...........I was in the RN then and spent the following day in clear-up operations in the Naval Base, which was hit quite badly.

We lost our electricity supply, but thankfully we have our heat and cooking on gas - our house was full of people from our street drinking cups of tea all night!! Thankfully we live in a very sheltered spot and suffered no damage apart from some missing roof tiles.

My oldest daughter slept right through it and was quite annoyed that no one had woken her..!!
18 months ago. Edited 18 months ago.
Doug Wall has replied to Keith Burton
A friend of mine stood at a bus stop in the morning surrounded by debris and wondering why the bus was late, and why it was so windy.....
18 months ago.
John Lawrence
John Lawrence
This brought back memories, I came back from Birmingham just before the storm and it was very still, I slept all night and was shocked when I saw all the trees down between Ramsgate & Canterbury. A lot of the trees still had some roots left and a lot have re-grown over the years.
18 months ago.
Doug Wall has replied to John Lawrence
For years I remember seeing how the skyline looked so scarred in places, it's taken years to look more natural. On the chalk downs I guess the roots did not penetrate very deep, the trees were simply knocked over :-(
18 months ago.
William Sutherland
William Sutherland
Awesome capture and incredible narrative!

Admired in:
www.ipernity.com/group/tolerance
18 months ago.
Doug Wall has replied to William Sutherland
Thanks William
18 months ago.
Phil Sutters
Phil Sutters
We lived in inner London and our local park had trees uprooted and some came down beside roads and across parked cars. My brother-in-law and his family live on the North Downs near Sevenoaks. The hillsides near them, which we visited a few months later, looked like a WW1 battlefield - huge swathes of trees felled.
18 months ago.
Doug Wall has replied to Phil Sutters
And Sevenoaks was reduced to one oak....:-(
18 months ago.
mARTin Piché
mARTin Piché
Superbe *****
18 months ago.
Les's Photography AKA aligeeach
Les's Photography AK…
Thank you for posting this excellent image into the group it is reflecting beautifully in The Little Pond .
Admired In
www.ipernity.com/group/thelittlepond
18 months ago.
Don Barrett (aka DBs travels)
Don Barrett (aka DBs…
Thanks for this detail. Our (US) image of the UK is of steady, rather boring, weather, so this story (and the other weather pictures) are helpful in changing perspective.
18 months ago.
Doug Wall has replied to Don Barrett (aka DBs…
We have our moments Don....
18 months ago.
Annemarie
Annemarie
oh no.......!
18 months ago.
Doug Wall has replied to Annemarie
Sadly, yes :-)
18 months ago.
Frank Roolooth
Frank Roolooth
I remember it well. I woke up to a raging noise outside with the crashing and banging of things being blown around, at one point I was sure some of our windows were going to blow in. So many healthy trees were flattened near me, it was a strange sight. Sadly a local nurse was killed on her way to work when an advertising hoarding was blown down onto her as she passed by.
18 months ago.
Doug Wall has replied to Frank Roolooth
There are so many stories, certainly a night to remember, over 20 people were killed. But I've read that the 1703 storm killed 123 people on land plus 8000 seamen. Also tens of thousands of sheep, 400 windmills and countless homes and hundreds of ships. It also changes the coastline here in Kent.
18 months ago.
Eunice Perkins
Eunice Perkins
A storm like that is certainly frightening.
18 months ago.